Team NZ takes AC72 sailing

Emirates Team New Zealand took its AC72 sailing for the first time today - on a cold, wet Auckland winter's day.

As a very watery dawn glow started to light Auckland, the AC72 was wheeled from the shed, mated to the wingsail and lifted into the Viaduct Basin.

There it sat while a few last-minute adjustments were made and the crew waited for some breeze.

Sailing time was delayed several times as team meteorologist Roger Badham monitored weather radar and computer models and kept the sailing crew, impatient to leave the dock, informed.

Finally at 1pm the big cat was towed out in the Auckland Harbour and did not return to base until after dark. The breeze was still very light and rain was threatening.

Three chase boats containing designers, engineers, systems experts, boat builders and specialists accompanied the cat, intently watching its every move

The breeze in the outer harbour varied from zero to 8-10 knots and the sea was flat. Rain came in the squalls.

"It is good to get the first sail under our belt," Grant Dalton said. "Overall the weather could have been better but the wind was ideal for a first sail. It's what we had waited for.

Dalton said the day, while unspectacular, was productive. "We know more about the boat than we did this morning and that's why we go testing."

Up to the end of next January, teams are permitted only 30 sailing days in the AC72. Emirates Team New Zealand intends to make every sailing day count.

A sailing say is defined as the yacht releasing the tow for only five minute. The team plans to sail from dawn to dusk when conditions are favourable.

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